No! There's not a glimmer of hope that we will trade for Cliff Lee. It's Carlos Lee! I've been writing about the young guys so far, the ones with hazier futures, the ones that make us squint at minor league numbers to try and decipher what sort of players they are and what sort of players that they can become. Carlos Lee has been around for a while, lolling to and fro in left field at Minute Maid since 2007. He's not the slugger he used to be, and he doesn't steal bases much anymore, but he's not Adam Dunn. Carlos Lee has been a popular whipping boy here at the Crawfishboxes ever since I have been frequenting the site. I think I may have even made some easy jokes at his expense, comparing him to Tal's hill or a tree or something. But, dear friends, I have hope that those days are behind us, and I offer some evidence. And now, I would like to take a little of your time and redefine the word 'evidence' to mean 'brief observation, speculation, mixed with what amounts to three stats.'
Carlos seemed to play with a little more pep in his step this year. He ran the bases with reckless abandon, trying to stretch singles into doubles and doubles into triples. He had his highest speed rating since 2007 this year (and the second worst base running score for his career), a blazing 3.1. For a couple reference points I will present you with Adam Dunn who scored .9 and Michael Bourn who scored 8.1. It's one of the many fantastic ratings they have over on fangraphs and apparently, it's not calculated by dividing the total number of miles traveled by the number of hours traveled. There are many theories as to why Lee had more spunk in 2011. Some say it's playing with younger players; some say it was Brad Mills's visit to Panama in the off season; some say it's the work of the devil; and some say that Lee is a social fellow who does better within the camaraderie of the infield as opposed to the spacious pastures of left field. But whatever it is, he was more fun to watch this last season.
Happy recklessness didn't seep into every aspect of Lee's game. He managed to post the second highest walk rate of his career. As I hear from the wise voices around these parts, drawing walks is an old-man skill. Maybe Lee can adapt a little more because he's not getting any younger and a few more walks would be nice. Defensively, the infield has proven to be kinder to Carlos than the outfield. However, he even had a good UZR in left field this season, not just at first base. I think it is pretty much widely agreed that Lee's glove is best at first these days. (Also see CRPerry13's hell's weather report.) Hopefully, Lee is applying himself harder now, making up for his aging body and natural talents, and his improved UZR rating will carry over into next year.
Carlos Lee the left fielder died in blaze of flames, and he has been reborn at first base as a glorious leather-flashing phoenix. There is hope Carlos Lee has rededicated himself. I hope that he produces a walk rate around 10% and a slash line of .280/.360/.440 with - dare I say it - above average defense at first. One last piece of evidence that Lee has rededicated himself has surfaced: footage of his new workout routine has been leaked on youtube. You can see it here.